Katie, California, USA: Since my doctor saw something suspicious on a scan I had two years ago, I have CT scans of the abdomen and pelvis periodically now to follow this UFO. A few days prior to the scan, I am given a blood test to check kidney function to make sure I won't have any bad effects from the iodine IV dye. I usually try to schedule my appointments at around 10:00 AM, so I can eat a little breakfast, then fast for the three hours before the test as required. And I wear sweat pants so I won't have to disrobe.
I am given a barium solution to drink the night before to opacify the lower digestive tract. In comparison to some of the other vile liquids I have had to drink before procedures, it isn't too bad, but it's no piña colada. When I arrive at the hospital, I am given two more liters of the stuff, which I must drink over the course of one hour. Then I position myself on my back on a flat table and an IV is started. It's important to be well hydrated for this process...one time I was dehydrated and it took three sticks to find a vein. When the dye is administered, you feel an immediate rush of warmth to the pelvic area and the scan is started at the same time. A couple of passes through a whirling ring that shoots x-rays through abdomen and pelvis and it's over with. After making sure my kidneys are functioning, they detach the IV and I can go home.
Cathy B., Ontario, Canada: I felt apprehensive before my first CT scan and wondered things like: Would it hurt? Would it be long? Would it be embarrassing? I'm quite used to them by now!
Fasting since the night before, I have to arrive about an hour before the scan, in order to drink a 'contrast' liquid.... two large cups of cold, peachy drink, similar to what you would find in those bubbly drink dispensers at an old diner. Not so bad. I change into one of those lovely blue hospital gowns and am escorted into the CT room by a technician.
Often because they want a heightened contrast of pelvic area, a small hose is inserted into the rectum and water is pumped in, so to 'expand' and differentiate the area around vital organs. I admit, I didn't like this much the first few times, but it doesn't hurt. I lie on a table and the large donut shaped machine moves back and forth over the abdominal/pelvic areas. I'm asked, via loudspeaker, to hold my breath a few times, I hear a bit of a buzzing, mechanical sound, and that's it. It's pretty quick, once you're in there.
I have experienced CT scan results that show 'something' that turned out to be nothing and also 'nothing' that turned out to be something (learned at a later date). So, they are not foolproof. Like many diagnostic tools, they serve as a measure of discovery, not a exact science.
Jax, Massachusetts, USA: My doctor told me to pick up some fleet phospho-soda, mix it with apple juice, and drink it three hours prior to the scan. Well! I slugged it down and ran to the bathroom approximately one and a half seconds later. This stuff works f-a-s-t, so stay close to a bathroom.
When I truly believed nothing else could exit my body from any orifice, I headed for the clinic where I'd have the scan. Inside, the nurse actually asked me to drink more 'expulsion/propulsion' juice. Then she hooked an IV (intravenous) to my arm.
At last I laid down on the little bed that slides you into the tube. At that juncture the nurse inserted a liquid dye (I think) into the IV and told me to expect a "very warm feeling" to flush my entire body. "In fact," she said, "many women feel like they're going to involuntarily urinate, so don't be surprised. You won't, but it might feel like that." That's exactly what it felt like.
Other than that, the bed just moves about half-way into this large tube/cylinder-like donut-hole thingy. The technician pushes a button and the whole apparatus groans, cranks and whirs around the bed as you "hold your breath for this view, please."
I'm a pain-wuss. Fortunately, CT scans are entirely painless. The worst part about them is the preparation and the emotional stress, of course, since we're having them to determine whether or not something awful is going on inside our bodies. Thank goodness the nurses were wonderful when I went for the first one. One even held my hand as I wussed out under the stress!